Two weeks ago, we sent this cheerfully inquisitive email to all nine members of the Colorado Springs City Council:
"Good morning guys, Some quick questions: Have you ever smoked or otherwise used marijuana? If so, do you continue to do so? And if so, would you describe yourself as an occasional, frequent or heavy user? And finally, medical or retail? Looking forward to your responses!"
Only two responded. Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Jill Gaebler and Andy Pico, who weren't afraid to answer a personal question.
Gaebler: "I've never used marijuana, but I plan to try it ... someday; it is legal after all."
Pico: "No no no and no. While on active duty I used to bust people for MJ use and distribution and send them to federal prison, and I also participated in counter drug interdiction efforts both on active duty and as a contractor supporting military drug interdiction efforts."
It's interesting their colleagues were too timid to go on the record. Is marijuana use (or non-use) still politically radioactive, especially in Colorado?
Come clean, Silent Seven! Politicians should welcome embarrassing and/or frivolous questions, not dodge them. A little weed, or the absence thereof, is no cause for shame.
Consider the impeccably conservative Sen. Ted Cruz. Responding to the Daily Mail last year, a campaign spokesperson said, "Teenagers are often known for their lack of judgment, and Sen. Cruz was no exception. When he was a teenager, he foolishly experimented with marijuana. It was a mistake, and he's never tried it since."
Bill Clinton famously didn't inhale (or have sex with that woman), while George W. Bush and Barack Obama have confessed to teenage toking.
Democrat Bernie Sanders admits to smoking weed twice as a young man, saying, "It just made me cough." Hillary Clinton says she has never tried it, nor has Donald Trump.
So let's put the bong aside and move on to serious stuff, such as putting an appointed board of "experts" in charge of Utilities. It's an idea that has been kicked around for decades, and has gotten more traction recently.
You can argue that nine essentially unpaid elected officials with no experience in utilities are wholly unqualified to serve as CSU's board and are at the mercy of management. Bad decisions will be covered up or excused, the board force-fed reams of meaningless statistics, and senior managers will feather their own nests. Even worse, rate-setting and capital investments tend to be politicized. Look at the downtown coal-fired power plant, look at the failed natural gas hedging program and at the overpriced Neumann pollution control system — all evidence of board incompetence.
But remember: CSU is a municipal utility. All residents have an undivided and equal share. As Councilor Bill Murray wrote on Facebook, "The Council is responsible by Charter, and should not shed this responsibility to others. The Council has always had the right to select qualified individuals to assist with the decision making process. Let the stakeholders hold us directly accountable, and not pass off our responsibility to an appointed body."
That makes sense, especially given Council's track record. Our elected officials are cautious when appropriate but often bold and far-sighted, especially with water. Council authorized the Blue River project in the 1950s, Homestake in the 1960s and Southern Delivery System in the 1990s — expensive, capital-intensive ventures that burdened current and future ratepayers. They weren't the actions of craven politicians seeking re-election. Absent their courage, our city would be small, poor and stagnant.
Do we really need a "better qualified" Utilities board? Ours has an impressive mix of high-level military, business and nonprofit-management experience. You may disagree with some of their decisions (I have), but don't attribute transient stumbles to a faulty governance model. The flightiness and eccentricity that characterized Council between 2011-2015 are ancient history. Let's not blame the present board for their misdeeds.
If CSU were a baseball team they'd be the Yankees, not the loveable Cubs. The Bronx Bombers have had some down years recently, but you know they'll eventually win their 28th World Series. The Cubbies have won two world championships and are entering their 108th rebuilding year. They've got a pretty good team this year, so maybe ... wait a minute!
What have I been smoking?